1) Fire in the Hole (Season 1, Episode 01)
Few shows come out the gate as strongly as Justified did when it premiered in March of 2010, but fewer still have the luxury of a pilot blueprint that’s written by Elmore Leonard. “Fire in the Hole” makes a few significant changes to its source material – Boyd survives the climactic showdown, and Raylan’s wife Winona gets more than just an off-hand mention – but it’s otherwise faithful to the flavor and feel of Leonard’s original short story.
Confidently shucking the usual responsibilities that come with a pilot, “Fire in the Hole” is only concerned with telling one story as best it can, rather than setting up infrastructure. Thanks to Graham Yost’s smart translation of Leonard’s words and some darn fine casting, the characters arrived fully formed, and a series was born. It didn’t matter what the show would end up being -“Fire in the Hole” captures the spirit and tone of Justified better than many of the initial first season episodes – so long as we got to watch these performers operating in this milieu.
Best Scene: It’s hard to pick which standoff is more tense, the one that opens the episode in Miami, or the one that closes it out in Ava’s kitchen. I’ll just leave the two options staring at each other until one pulls on the other to decide a winner.
Memorable Line: “It was justified.” The show’s namesake would double as Raylan’s mantra through the pilot and series.